Idaho, Nevada Gay Marriage Bans Unconstitutional

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, center.
Judge Stephen Reinhardt, center.

A unanimous federal appeals court struck down as unconstitutional Idaho’s and Nevada’s ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday.  The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling comes just one day after the U.S. Supreme court let stand appellate rulings that struck down bans on gay marriage in five states.

The overall impact has been to legalize same-sex marriage in 30 states.

The unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit found that the bans on same-sex marriage violate the constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and discriminate against homosexuals.   The opinion by Judge Stephen Reinhardt rejected the Idaho argument that the bans promote the welfare of children by encouraging good parentlng in stable opposite-sex families.

Reinhardt, considered one of the court’s most liberal judges, was joined by Marsha Berzon and Ronald Gould, both appointed by President Bill Clinton.

Reinhardt wrote the 2012 opinion striking down the California gay marriage ban.

“The lessons of our constitutional history are clear: inclusion strengthens, rather than weakens, our most important institutions,” Reinhardt wrote.  “When we integrated our schools, education improved.  When we opened our juries to women, our democracy became more vital.  When w e allowed lesbian and gay soldiers to serve openly in uniform, it enhanced unit cohesion.  When same-sex couples are married, just as when opposite-sex couples are married, they serve as models of loving commitment to all,” he wrote.

Idaho has appealed a lower court decision that invalidated his state’s ban on gay marriage.

And in Nevada, a coalition that sponsored the state constitutional amendment imposing a ban on same sex marriage will defend that law.  A federal judge in Nevada upheld the ban.  But in January, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval said the state will no longer defend the ban on appeal because the position is no longer defensible in court.

Lighter Moment

Reinhardt also injected a lighter tone.   In a footnote he says that Idaho Gov. Butch Otter asserts that a shift to same-sex marriage will lead opposite-sex couples to abuse alcohol and drugs, engage in extramarital affairs and participate in time-consuming hobbies.  “We seriously doubt that allowing committed same-sex couples to settle down in legally recognized marriages will drive opposite-sex couples to sex, drugs and rock-and-roll,” he concludes.

Other State Bans Fall

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review appeals from decisions striking down gay marriage bans in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The appellate rulings in those cases are now binding on other states in those circuits, it has the effect of striking down marriage limits in Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.

A total of 19 states and the District of Columbia had allowed gay marriages prior to this week.

Case: Latta v. Otter and Sevcik v. Sandoval, No. 14-35420


Opinion summary here.


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